The U.S. travel industry is slowly learning how to attract affluent Chinese tourists

VIP GOLF USA Spring 2013 issue

Cover of Vip Golf USA magazine, the first magazine fully in Chinese about Golfing in the United States.

According to a report released last week by the U.N. World Tourism Organization, Chinese travelers spent $102 billion on international tourism in 2012, 40% more than they spent in 2011. More than 80 million Chinese traveled internationally in 2011, outspending German tourists — the longtime leader in overseas travel spending — for the first time. Those numbers have steadily climbed since 2000, when 10 million Chinese traveled abroad.
This remarkable growth — largely due to relaxed government restrictions on foreign travel and the rise of a Chinese middle class with disposable income — has forced the U.S. travel industry, from hotels to restaurants to shopping centers, to adapt to this influx of Chinese tourists.
The hotel industry has perhaps been the most attentive. According to USA Today, Marriott has stationed 20 sales representatives in China and teaches employees in the U.S. to speak basic Mandarin phrases like hello and thank you. The Marriott Marquis in New York City has even replaced room numbers on the 44th floor with names because the number four is considered bad luck in many Asian cultures.
Hilton sends its reps to China regularly to meet with corporate travel planners and, according to the report, started a Chinese-guest program, staffed with native Chinese speakers. The company features Chinese meals and displays oranges and tangerines (often considered good luck) in 63 of its hotels.

Meanwhile, Starwood, which owns Sheraton, Westin and W hotels, has revised its amenities and services as well, according to USA Today: “In-room tea kettles, slippers, translated restaurant menus and welcome brochures, on-site translation services and comfort food such as congee (rice porridge) and noodles” can now be found at many of Starwood’s properties.
Luxury Hotels of America Summer 2013Even the publishing industry has now several specialized magazines made for very affluent Chinese travelers coming to the United States: Luxury Hotels of America, VIP Golf USA, Niuyue Mag –  fully in Chinese Mandarin language – offer the latest news about historical hotels in Texas, golf courses in Arizona, or sophisticated boutique hotels in New York City. “The new generation of Chinese tourists coming to the U.S. is craving for high quality information about historical and boutique hotels in America, and want to try other kind of hotels that standardized hotel chains”, said Pierre Gervois, CEO of China Elite Focus, the publishing company of Luxury Hotels of America.
States around the country have also been experimenting with ways to draw more Chinese tourists. According to BBC News, the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism holds a workshop advising businesses on how to cater to Chinese tourists, and California has started a program called China Ready, which includes a learning kit that helps the state’s businesses serve those travelers and understand their culture.
So what are Chinese travelers looking for when they leave their homeland? Mainly, luxury goods. Many tourists leave China to shop, spending an average of $1,230 per trip, and some estimates show they spend about $3,200 per trip when visiting New York City. Items such as clothes and accessories (many of which were made in China) are often at the top of their list.

While the increase in discretionary income among China’s middle class is part of the tourism spike in the U.S., the Chinese government’s decision in 2007 to make the U.S. an “approved destination” has also helped. The designation lets American businesses advertise and market to audiences in China.
As U.S. businesses adapt, they have been forced to confront the reality that America is no longer the inevitable No. 1 destination for Chinese tourists. Because of prior approval by the Chinese government, many European countries have been marketing to Chinese tourists for longer. University of South Carolina professor Robert Li told USA Today that travelers from Shanghai now prefer to travel to France rather than the U.S.
But the number of travelers visiting the U.S. from China is still projected to grow dramatically over the next few years. The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates that from 2010 to 2016, the number of Chinese tourists visiting the U.S. will grow by 232%.

Source : Time, article by J. Sanburn

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3 thoughts on “The U.S. travel industry is slowly learning how to attract affluent Chinese tourists

  1. Agree with the fact that chinese prefer France than the States now, sorry to say that but recently we have seen a lot of chinese in lavander fields for photo shooting. They arrive on travel shuttle with a capacity of 70 persons. That’s huge for french small rivera village to see so much chinese overwhelmed by the lavander fields ! Lucky France!

  2. The French have a Minister of Tourism, we don’t..We have still a long way to go when it concerns inbound Tourism and I have seen the positive changes along the years to accomodate foreign visitors but we still have so way to go..Happy trails to you all to the Southwest!

    • Thanks for your comment! You are right, the U.S. travel and tourism industry is learning fast on how to promote the U.S. as a great leisure tourism destination for Chinese oitbound travelers. Not having, at federal level, a Ministry of tourism is not a big deal, as marketing campaigns coming from the states or cities are generally better and more focused than global campaigns to promote an entire country.

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